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Saturday, January 28, 2012

Shiny Brand New Website!!!

Well, I've talked about it for long enough, and I finally put my hand in my pocket and turned my blog into a proper website!

The new home of this blog is

It has an all new layout. New colour scheme which I hope you all find easier to read! A more modern and fresh feel to the site. It's easy to navigate (I hope)! I'm hoping to add more content as I go along, including a portfolio of all the articles I have written for the Clearview magazine.

So, thanks for putting up with all the false starts with the new website, but it's finally here! There are a few little tweaks to be made as I go along, but the site is pretty much ready to view. So please start using the new URL! This part of my blog will remain for historical purposes and to help direct traffic to my new site!

I hope you enjoy the new site. Hints, tips and criticisms are all welcome!

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Friday, January 27, 2012

Lots Of Money In Shaped Frames

I think one area of the market that is still being over looked by installers is the shaped/arched windows sector.

The majority of the housing stock in the country have square/rectangular windows. But some houses have the odd circular window or windows with arches in them. The houses that I see with the shaped windows are all still timber and I think that there is a lot of money still to be made from replacing these.

I think that most customers believe that circular or shaped windows can't be replaced unless it is in timber again. But if installers were to really engage customers in educating them about the range of available options in the shaped frame market, either via their websites or by their literature, then I think the could tap into an area of the market that hasn't really been pushed as much as other parts of our industry.

The tools to make this boost possible are already there. We already have specialist bending companies like ArcoFrame and (possibly the best) Universal Arches who have the capability to arch end bend almost any type of frame into almost any type of shape. We have plenty of glass manufacturers who can make specialist glass units to fit any shape of frame. All the manufacturing capabilities are there. Installers just need to tune in and get interested. In my experience in selling shaped frames, there is good money to be made out of them, as the cost of the product commands a higher profit margin.

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Thursday, January 26, 2012

Irish Oak Better Than Light Oak

Just to get things straight from the beginning, I do prefer Irish Oak to Light Oak. In fact I love it - as much as you can love a wood grain effect on PVCu frames! 

The wood grain effect on the foil is probably the most realistic wood grain that has ever come out, far better than the Light Oak, which at times can look a little bit fake and plastic looking. 

The colour of Irish Oak I think is also far better than Light Oak. It's a far more believable wood colour than Light Oak. Yes it is quite a bit lighter, but I don't think this stops Irish Oak from being used in various different situations and being used with various different glass configurations.

This is our new front door to the reception area of our building:

We had a Light Oak on white door previously, for about 3 years, but we were getting bored with the colour and were getting asked more and more for Irish Oak. So we changed it a couple of days ago. But we also wanted to push a slightly different glass option. We thought that sandblasted glass looks quite nice with the light colour, but we thought we'd mix it up and use Fusion hand made bevels instead, rather than conventional bevels. They look a little rougher than normal bevels, but I think that adds a more rustic character to the door to go with the more wooden colour. 

This is just one example of Irish Oak being a more versatile colour. Obviously it won't match every single type of house and brick, but I don't think it is limited to just cottages.

The last 18 months has seen us order more and more of this colour, almost to the point where it is outselling Light Oak. It's not become the most popular wood grain colour yet, but I'd give it a couple more years and I think Irish Oak will have the clear advantage over it's older Light Oak brother.

As always, thoughts and comment welcomed! Do you like our new door?!

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Guest Post: Protecting Glass From Vandalism

Ian Penfold from Solar Gard explains the advantages of their range of window films, as an alternative to new laminated glass units or the more extreme installation of steel bars across windows.

“We all know that broken glass poses a major threat to safety. Not just for occupants of a building, but sometimes even for general passers-by.

For example, in the event of vandalism, flying broken glass causes the vast majority injuries, rather than the missile. We have all seen the damage caused by the riots that took place in London recently and resulted in a number of high profile buildings having their windows smashed. However, covering buildings in steel, while it may prevent glass damage, will also spoil the look of the building onto which it is placed, marking it as a site of vandalism and taking away the benefits of natural light or a pleasant view for those inside. Alternatives to this measure need to be looked at.

Safety film works by holding the pieces of glass together when a window is smashed, preventing it from breaking into dangerous shards and causing injury. The newest, state-of-the-art safety and security film is made from the highest quality materials, such as tough, high-tensile polyester and ultra-strong mounting adhesives. These films aren’t the stereotype, dark silver surfaces you might see in the back of a van – most of them are made to be invisible on glass surfaces. Typically, a range of clear and solar control versions are offered, ranging from 4 to 14 Mil (100 to 350 microns) in thickness, meaning that people are still able to enjoy the view from their windows. This ensures that the appearance of a period building such as The King’s School is not affected.

By keeping the glass shards together as one pane, it also gives windows a certain degree of flexibility. This means that in event of breakage, rather than the glass breaking and blowing inwards, the film will flex, keeping all the fragments together and within the window frame.

Replacing all the glass with laminated, security glass is a costly option, and permanent alternatives such as bars or shutters can block the view and appear out of place in school or other public environment. By contrast, window film is installed quickly, uses no drilling and installation allows the normal routine around the building to continue virtually uninterrupted.

With many options available on the market, school managers and building owners should consult with a professional window film installer to ensure the right film is applied. In addition, professional film installation maintains and reinforces the integrity of existing glazing systems.

Safety and security window films have passed some of the toughest government and consumer testing to provide effective overall window safety, making it an attractive investment for a range of projects – from small- to medium-sized businesses, to public buildings, homes, hospitals and schools.”

More information on Solar Gard on their products can be found here:

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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Government Loses Appeal To Cut Solar Feed In Tariffs

Fantastic news for the solar industry in the UK has just been announced!

The High Court has denied an appeal from the Government to cut the FIT from 43p per kWh to 21p. The Government lost it's original battle before Christmas to implement the cuts, but a challenge sent to the High Court ruled in favour of the industry, saying that the cuts were 'unlawful'. The Government said it would appeal the decision, but it has just been announced that the Government has failed in it's bid to over-turn the ruling. This is probably some of the best news for the solar industry in years!

The cut off 22p from the tariff would have risked thousands of jobs, numerous companies and would have left the UK solar industry in tatters. However, this is something the industry doesn't have to worry about and can now focus on installing as many solar panels as possible to people homes up and down the country, doing their bit for the carbon footprint of the nation. More importantly, it safeguards jobs and people's livelihoods in a time where jobs are probably the most precious commodity right now.

More to follow. 

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Industry Twitter Behaviour

Social media is now getting very much embedded in our industry now. Some companies and individuals know how to handle it and use it to their advantage, some simply don't. Either way, we all have a behavior when using Twitter.

Mike Bygrave at Roseview Windows has created a poll:

The poll ask 8 simple questions about your habits on Twitter and takes no longer than a minute to answer. I'm not going to give examples of these questions on here as it would defeat the object of me wanting you all to click on the link above and take the poll.

Once enough data has been Mike has said he will publish it - and I'm pretty sure I'll analyze the results myself to see how the industry is making the most of Twitter.

Personally, I still don't think the industry is making the most of Twitter or using it in the correct way. First of all, Twitter is mainly a B2B marketing tool. The general populous still aren't using the micro-blogging site to search for window companies, Google has that all sewn up. I believe that most businesses update their Twitter feeds with offers so that their Twitter widgets look updated on their websites. I might be wrong, but that's what I would use it for.

Twitter is better for business to business use. Suppliers contacting installers and vice versa has created an excellent online relationship that wouldn't have been there before. It's quick, simple and gets things done.

Anyway, take the poll, it doesn't take long, and all feedback on this is welcome! 

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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Open Letter to FENSA


As you are probably aware, the discussion on Twitter and my blog today has been about the illegality of windows with uni-blinds/integral blinds as according to a FENSA inspector yesterday, they don't meet the correct energy requirements.

The subject came up yesterday as the company I work for had one of our scheduled visits from one of your inspectors. He mentioned to one of our installers that windows with blinds within the unit, even if it has argon gas, warm edge spacers, low 'e' glass and low iron glass, don't class as energy efficient due to the small aluminium strip at the top which houses the mechanism. The problem with this, and something which has been brought up on Twitter, is that units with integral blinds come under the same EN1279 tests, just as units with Georgian bar and lead do - are classed as energy efficient. So why not Uni-Blinds?

As you can appreciate, there are many companies, including the one I work for, that will be concerned about this. If I take what your inspector told us seriously, that would mean we would be unable to sell integral blinds in our windows - something which we do sell a lot of, as I'm sure many other companies do. I understand that this issue doesn't apply to doors and conservatories with integral blinds. But because many sell their windows with the option of integral blinds, this is a problem which requires immediate clarification and clear guidance for installers.

A reply to this question will not only be appreciated by myself, but also by the many other window companies which are just learning of this problem.

Yours Sincerely


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Monday, January 23, 2012

Uni-Blinds And Energy Efficiency

Well, today the uncertainty of what was classed as energy efficient and what wasn't reared it's head again today, thanks to the chance visit of a FENSA inspector on one of our installations.

The topic of Uni-Blinds, the Pellini Italian blinds within double glazed units, came up between one of our installers and a FENSA inspector. According to the inspector, to which I don't have his name yet, said that windows with Uni-Blinds in them aren't classed as energy efficient and would condemn the whole installation.

When questioned if when the unit had low 'e' glass, low iron, argon gas and super spacers, the window would still be condemned.

The reason? The aluminium strip which houses the mechanism causes a cold current which acts against the heat insulating properties of the unit - making it inefficient. This, even though Uni-Blinds are classified under the same ruling as Georgian bar in the EN 1279 tests. Leaded units are also classed as efficient - despite lead on the units.

Up to press, I am lead to believe that FENSA are unable to prove how units with Uni-Blinds are inefficient, yet units with lead and Georgian bar, classed under the same testing, are efficient. 

Doors or conservatories with integral blinds are exempt from this ruling.

My main gripe with all this is the damage it could do to the product. We, like many others, have used the product for years and personally I think it's fantastic. So many selling points, it looks great, it's modern but fits in totally with the look of any window or door. Window and door companies need every excuse to be able to sell their products, and I can say from experience that by having these Uni-Blinds at our disposal, we've managed to secure sales because of this great and unique product.

I invite all to input their thoughts on this, and any ideas on how installers can get round this issue in a way that will satisfy FENSA and allow units with blinds in them to be sold legally abiding by the energy efficiency guide lines. I also invite FENSA to officially confirm what their position on this is.

My personal opinion is that this is all a complete load of BS, and has no solid ground until some concrete proof can be given to prove that this is truly inefficient. But until then, we should all carry on selling them!

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Thursday, January 19, 2012

PVCu Windows Overseas

Despite the mass availability of PVCu and it's endless recycle life, PVCu windows are really only a market that exists in the UK, Germany and...well...that's about it really. Apparently there are a few PVCu/vinyl windows knocking about America. I'm sure that some of my American friends who follow this blog will be able to shed more light on this for me. Hint!

Seems silly doesn't it? That one of the most widely used materials in the world is only used for windows in just a couple of countries. Yet when you look at where most of the polymers are made, like Japan and most of the far east, we never hear of any PVCu window market there, even though they export 40% of all of Europe's polymers and a shed load of composite door slabs.

You have to ask yourself why? Is it too expensive for the general public over there to buy? Are they too used to timber and aluminium/other metals to be weaned off it? What marketing is there for PVCu windows, if any at all?

Germany seems to be the leading country when it comes to glazing, of all materials. It's widely considered in this country that we are a distant second to the Germans in terms of build quality, reliability and efficiency. But I do think we are catching up to them, may take a while to get there, but I think we can crack it!

I'm making more of an observation than a point with this post. I think that if some of the biggest profile companies and polymers companies looked at some of the bigger emerging and robust economies like Brazil, China and India, they could tap a new market. A market full of people willing to spend plenty of dosh on their homes after their countries have seen double digit growth for a number of years now.

Wonder how the global PVCu window market will look in 5 to 10 years time?

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Glass. Probably The Most Infulential Material For Our Future

This is a second post today I know, but I had to share this all with you. Some of you may have seen this video before, some maybe not. I was only shown this today, and being the glazing nerd that I am, got very excited about all the possibilities smart glass technology could bring to our every day lives! 

This video is 11 months old, and some of the technology shown in the video is already available. The smart tables which recognize phones and cameras are already available from Microsoft. TV's are being launched as we speak which are already connected to the internet and have in-built features like Twitter, video and email. Samsung have just brought out a smart window, it looks just like a normal window, but with all the interactive features that a laptop and an internet connection can provide you with. 

I know that BMW and Mazda are looking into touch-screen dashboard technology for cars at the moment, and new cars featuring the tech will be out shortly.

For those with the investment capability and vision, maybe some of these new advances are something which window companies could look at and see if they could integrate some of it into their products.

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The Funny Side Of Spam Comments!

Running a blog like this you end up getting a fair few comments. You also end up receiving quite a few spam comments. Some of them are quite funny, the terrible English and spelling make them a laugh to read. Some of them are weird and some just suck up to you in extremely poor English!

Check this one out, he/she likey very muchy:

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Someone didn't want to have a chat:

Hello. And Bye.  

I also get asked very important questions:

Who do you like Mike Tyson or Fedor Emelianenko?  

While spam comments just clog up my inbox, sometimes they are funny just to read through. Their utter gibberish and ramblings do make them amusing - but only for a while, then I delete them!

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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Epwin Group And Latium Merge With Immediate Effect

 A tweet from the @glasstimes Twitter account reads as follows: 

"The Epwin Group and Latium have merged with immediate effect to create Epwin Holdings, a 275million turnover building products group."

To be honest, I'm a little bit gutted I didn't know anything about this! But I'll get over it!

My immediate reaction was one of surprise. But then again, we all expected further consolidation of the double glazing market, and this announcement goes to prove what many people were thinking. 

The name 'Epwin Holdings' interests me. In the tweet it says there was a merger, but the retention of the Epwin name makes me wonder if Epwin Group actually bought out Latium. And if there was a buy-out, my next question would be about potential job losses. Will there be any? If so, how many? When would the axe fall?

How much of Latium is likely to be retained? Would Latium be swallowed up by Epwin? Will their products disappear over time? Will Epwin take on some of Latiums best products and improve and focus on them?

These are just my initial thoughts and questions on the matter. Once more details are flooded into Twitter and the online magazines, I'll be able to make a better judgement on this announcement.

UPDATE: here is the press release from the Ewpin Group:

The Epwin Group and Latium have merged with immediate effect [17/1/12] to create a significant and diverse new UK building products group.

Including established Epwin brands, Profile 22, Swish Window and Door Systems, Swish Building Products and Sierra amongst others, alongside Latium companies Spectus, Kestrel-BCE and glass processing business CET - the agreement creates a new group with a combined turnover in excess of £275m.

With more than 2,500 employees, the company, Epwin Holdings, will be led by a new senior board chaired by Epwin Group founder Jim Rawson and including Latium owner, Brain Kennedy, the existing shareholders.

Jim Rawson, chairman, Epwin Holdings, said: "This is a major opportunity for the UK building products industry. In bringing together many of it's leading businesses, in a British run, British owned group, we have the resource to invest in individual brands, product innovation and service, grow our business and most importantly, support our customers across sectors in doing the same."

He added: "We don't expect any significant changes to the operational structure of Group businesses in the medium term - this is very much business as usual for customers, employees and suppliers."

The Epwin Group was founded by Rawson in 1976. Floated on the Stock Exchange in 1987, it was brought back into private ownership in 2000. More than a decade on, it continues to deliver a lead in technology and sustainable innovation to the UK building product industry.

Latium companies, owned by entrepreneur and investor Brian Kennedy were acquired, in part, from Heywood Williams in 2005.

Funding for the merged group has been provided exclusively by Barclays Corporate, Bristol.

Brian Kennedy said: "There is a very strong commercial fit between Latium and Epwin businesses and the merger creates tremendous new opportunities for both employees, customers and suppliers."

"It has both the stability and financial resource to see out challenges and to secure new opportunities, something which we are confident will deliver advantages for not just it's member businesses but customers and the building products industry more broadly."

For further information visit

I hope that all the mentions of new opportunities and chances for growth and prosperity come to fruition. There have been too many company take overs, not just in the window industry but all others, where job losses has been the immediate focus. It says in the statement that in the medium-term, there will be no changes in regards to employees. But it does leave the door open a little bit in terms of long-term restructuring. But all in all, a very positive statement. I wish all companies involved the best of luck!

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A Place For Positivity!

As many of you will have already noticed, on the right hand side on my blog I have created a new page, designed specifically to promote the more positive things going on in the industry at the moment.

For the last 3 years, there have been many outlets in where negativity can be written about, including Twitter, blogs (including this one), magazines etc. But there never has ever really been a dedicated place for people or companies to just talk about the positive things going on with them or the industry right now. Yes there's Twitter, but once that tweet is pushed down the list by the many other tweets after, it's generally forgotten about. I want this page to be a place to record the many successes people and companies could potentially have this year. It would be nice to look back on this page at the end of the year and say "yeah, 2012 wasn't all that bad!"

I want everyone to get involved, whether you're a company or a person. Please don't leave anonymous comments as this would be defeating the object of an open forum page designed to create a positive open atmosphere.

I can be something small or something big. It might be that you've broken your sales record for the month or already surpassed your monthly target with a week to spare. Lead levels might be better than expected. You might have won your biggest order to date. These are just some examples, the news can be as big or as small as you would like to share - just make sure it is positive!

One thing I don't want it to turn into is an advertising page, so I'll filter out and dispose of anything which looks like advertising!

Other than that, I hope to be able to make a small difference with this page, and I hope that lots of you will get involved over the next 12 months!

Click this link to go to the page, or just find it on the right hand side! 


Monday, January 16, 2012

Twitter's Social Ethics

In Twitter, as in life, there are social ethics that exist which when followed, make life a bit more pleasant. I always try to be polite, informative, welcoming and engaging on Twitter. I just think it's polite to do so. No need to ignore a newcomer if they say hi, or not to reply to a #FollowFriday mention.

So here are a some social ethic rules to stick to make sure that your time on Twitter is as smooth and pleasant as possible.

1. Say hello in a morning. It's not always necessary this one, but it does invite conversation from the more polite and engaging people on Twitter.

2. Speak to the newbie's. People are joining Twitter all the time. If someone new starts to follow you and they say hi, reply back. Nothing worse than joining something new and not being welcomed.

3. Re-tweeting. Give some of your followers a re-tweet, or a RT, once in a while. It lets them know you're still taking an interest in what they're saying.

4. Thank others for RT's. If people are kind enough to spread the love and re-tweet one of your tweets, thank them. It shows that you're a grateful person and appreciate the little clicks they give you.

5. #FollowFriday mentions. Depending on how many followers you have, tagging people in your #FollowFriday mentions can take a little time. But, mentioning people regularly on a Friday so that others can follow and increase each others follow count can do a lot for your credibility on Twitter. It shows how much of a generous person you can be.

6. Thanks for #FF's. If someone tags you in a #FollowFriday mention, then the least you can do is RT that tweet or say thanks. Either one of these is acceptable if you don't have the time to return the favour.

7. Associated apps. Such other associated applications and measures of Twitter stats, such as Klout are gaining popularity. If someone includes you in something like Klout on Twitter, then either thanks them for taking the time out to include you, or return the favour in the same manner.

8. Arguments. Arguments on Twitter can be awkward things. I should know! If you disagree with someone on something they've said and feel strongly enough to reply, keep it clean, above the belt and non-derogatory to that person. No need to make it personal. Failing that, use Twitter's private Direct Message service.

9. Gossip. If you're a bit of a gossip, like me, make sure the information you're tweeting is accurate and confirmed. I have been caught out a couple of times by not obeying this rule and trust me, it's not worth the hassle.

10. Sympathetic causes. Last but certainly not least this one. Twitter is probably one of the most powerful communicative tools on the planet, to which we all contribute. We should all at some point use our collective power for good. If there is a charity, an ongoing cause or a major issue to highlight, RT relevant tweets or follow those accounts making the effort on Twitter to make a difference. 

I'm sure that by doing the various things above you'll avoid some of the sticky issues I've had to overcome during my two and a half years on Twitter.

If you think I've missed anything out, please comment and tell me!

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Friday, January 13, 2012

Advertise On This Site!

Over the last couple of months, with the site gaining more momentum and the readership expanding, I have been considering the viability of placing some carefully arranged adverts on this site!

So, this is your opportunity to get your company on a site that is growing at a fast pace. Why not advertise on a site that is averaging over 3,500 visitors per month and nearly 11,000 page views a month? Figures based on current rates of traffic.

The IT guys we use are currently organizing me a package for the site domain to be bought and transferred from Google onto their own servers. This should be completed shortly.

The site is updated with posts on a very regular basis, so you can be sure of strong, steady traffic ensuring maximum exposure for your ads.

I'm only going to be placing a few ads on the site. So if your ad is placed on here then it won't face much competition from many others.

Looking to give your business some extra online presence on a site with plenty of traffic and increasing all the time?

If you're interested in placing an advert on this site, email me at to discuss further details.

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Green Deal Doomed To Fail

The Green Deal has been on shaky ground ever since the details of the deal have been researched and found to be inconsistent at best. However, the Government's latest set of figures could spell the end for a deal which has had so much lobbying, hours of debate in Parliament, and I'm sure many millions of pounds of invested research.

The Government's own figures released today show that if the Green Deal was to go ahead, the number of lofts being insulated will drop a staggering 93%! The number of lofts insulated would reach a lowly 70,000! The Green Deal initially predicted 2.1 million lofts to be done! The number of cavity walls being insulated would be a piddly 170,000 when it should have been 1.4 million!

The Green Deal was supposed to create 65,000. This looks seriously doubtful now. 

The Green Deal was originally to be funded by the banks and the biggest energy companies. They were the businesses that were supposed to stump up the cash. But what chance was there of that ever happening?! Banks are hardly lending to businesses in the first place, and energy companies are way too protective of their cash to start giving it away in loans.

Whilst the Green Deal was a good idea, the initial research and figures laid out by the Government were fundamentally flawed. The Green Deal removes obligations from energy companies to improve the energy efficiency of people's homes and leaves it to the market. The problem with that is when you remove and obligation, the lack of motivation with most people, for whatever reason, means that take-up of the deal will be very low. Hence these appalling figures by the Government's own research facilities.

So, what now? Assuming the Green Deal collapses, the Government should look to focus on other energy efficiency measures set by the last Government that have been proven to work and continue to do so.

With the GGF lobbying hard to make sure energy efficient windows were included in the deal, it would be interesting to get their perspective on this latest batch of disappointing figures.

The Guardian has an article with more in-depth analysis and reaction. Click Here.

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Thursday, January 12, 2012

Job Losses At Total Window Systems

First strikes, and now job losses. I have learned that 19 jobs are to go at Total Window Systems in Devon, a company within the Epwin Group.

I'm reluctant to say that these job losses are a reaction/punishment for the strikes actually taking place. More likely it is the harsh economic environment that every window company is having to battle through in order to keep surviving. And in order to survive, tough measures sometimes have to be taken, hence these redundancies.

It can be argued that the last few months have been tough for both DB Glass and Total Window Systems. The strike last month managed to attract the attention of the local BBC stations. Of course it was covered on this site too, with probably much less of an impact! Staff during that time were able to make it clear that they were thoroughly unhappy, something which any business tried hard to avoid. These job losses only ensure the troubling times continue for a little while longer.

As always, I welcome comments, reactions or any further information from both the company and it's staff, if they wish to air their views.

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Green Deal Hopefuls Show Poor Last Quarter Trading

Argos down 8.8%. Thorntons down 4.2%. Halfords down 4.8%. Mothercare down 3%.

Just yet another indication of how bad the retail sector has suffered over the last 12-18 weeks. Some have suffered so bad that they have gone into administration, like Blacks and La Senza.

The two most striking figures to come out of today's splurge of data reports are the ones to come from Tesco and Homebase, the two massive companies hoping to make an impact on the double glazing industry when the Green Deal (hopefully) comes into force in October of this year.

Homebase released figures today that showed a 2.6% drop in like-for-like sales in the 18 weeks up to Christmas from the year before. While Tesco over the same period posted a large and unexpected drop of 2.3%. This was so surprising and worrying, that Tesco shares had dropped 15% by 9am this morning! They have since recovered slightly to 13.5% at the time of writing this.

I don't know whether the Homebase drop in sales was expected, but I know from reaction on TV that people were definitely not expecting such a fall from Tesco. Both companies will have invested quite a lot of time, effort and money in setting up the double glazing parts of their business. Falls in revenue at this time, combined with a struggling retail sector will only add extra pressure. They will want to make sure that the Green Deal is actually implicated so that they can justify their investment in the double glazing market and hopefully regain some of those lost sales.

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Wednesday, January 11, 2012

This Year Could Be The Best Year For Foils Yet

Out of all the areas of the industry that are taking a nose dive, one area that seems to be gaining strength is the market for coloured and colour foiled PVCu.

The start of the year has seen for us, a big step up in the number of quotes we are sending out with coloured options on them. Black I still think remains the main colour of choice when it comes to front doors. But from the window perspective cream wood grain, Irish Oak and now Anthracite Grey are becoming more and more the popular options.

Customers have grown very weary of the standard white PVCu window and are now looking for something that extra bit special to transform the appearance of their home - despite the increasingly poor economic outlook.

One things that hasn't changed with customers is their high demand for new products. Consumers these days expect lots of choice, with whatever they are buying, not just windows and doors. More choice allowed the customer to purchase something which is more unique to them, rather than the customer having to settle for something 'off the peg', like the mass majority of people.

As well as the PVCu colour market on the rise. The expansion of coloured aluminium has also reinforced the coloured market over the last couple of years. The coloured option is now here to stay. And with one-off 'grand-designs' becoming ever more popular, coloured windows and doors are going to become increasingly popular over the coming few years.

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Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Aluminium Making A Colourful Comeback

For many years PVCu has been top of the pile when it comes to materials choice for replacement windows and doors. But thanks to the recession and the inherent need for businesses to diversify and find niche areas of the market to squeeze extra money out of. 

Over the last couple of years, aluminium seems to have made a significant and sustained comeback. Success for aluminium has been found in high-end bi-folding doors and coloured frames. I'm sure that those of you down south will also report that aluminium is still a popular material choice down there. Aluminium has improved in appearance over the years and I think it is probably time for it to make more of an impact in the industry. If it is targeted at the right customers of course.

I think it is time for those companies who only sell PVCu to have a look at aluminium, especially the bi-folding doors, and add it to their product portfolio's. Aluminium bi-folds aren't going to be a regular seller unlike your standard white PVCu windows. But they are going to be those once-in-a-while high value contracts which earn you a lot of profit. As are the odd contracts where you sell coloured aluminium frames in a specialist building. You wont do it often, but when you do, this is your chance to earn a rare fat profit margin.

I am of course speaking from a PVCu installers point of view. Aluminium will probably never replace PVCu as their material of choice. I am simply saying that having the ability to sell aluminium for higher end projects, they're probably going to open a few more high value doors.

Those who sell aluminium purely will probably back me up when I say they have seen an increase in interest in the product. 

Now is the time to take a serious look at aluminium again. I'm not saying it's going to over take PVCu, especially when it still holds 85% of the residential market. But high end alumnium products could win you those extra high-value contracts every company will be desperate to get.

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Are We Building Houses All Wrong?

I never really took much interest in the Passivhaus energy standard. I saw it being talked about on Twitter a little bit, but took no notice of it. But I decided to take a look at it today and see what all the fuss was about.

It was quite enlightening. The Passivhaus energy standard is the focus to: "dramatically reduce the requirement for space heating and cooling, whilst also creating excellent indoor comfort levels. This is primarily achieved by adopting a fabric first approach to the design, specifying high levels of insulation to the thermal envelope with exceptional levels of air-tightness and the use of whole house mechanical ventilation."

Some of the basic principles:
  • good levels of insulation with minimal thermal bridges
  • passive solar gains and internal heat sources
  • excellent levels of air-tightness
  • good indoor air quality, provided by a whole house mechanical ventilation system with highly efficient heat recovery
The process of heating and cooling centres around the Mechanical Ventilation and Heat Recovery unit (MVHR). Heating and cooling also relies on the ventilation within the house. Heating and cooling occurs naturally (I think) due to the design of the building, the materials used and the MVHR. Passivhaus aims to rid the need of a conventional heating system in the building.

Here comes the good bit. A Passivhaus can save you over 90% on your heating! The first Passivhaus was built in Germany in 1991, and recent tests show that the energy performance of the building was just as good now as when it was built 21 years ago! Imagine the savings everyone would make! Energy companies certainly won't be too pleased!

So here's my thinking. Are we building our houses in this country all wrong? The diagram above shows the requirement of triple glazing for the windows in the property. Well this is already available for people to buy. Heat ground exchangers are again already available. In fact pretty much everything in that diagram is available for builders to use when developing their new housing estates. So why aren't we?

Probably cost. House builders are notorious for putting in the cheapest possible materials to make the fattest profit margins possible. Nothing wrong with that. But perhaps a few of them could re-focus with a Passivhaus feel, making their homes more sustainable. They could probably demand a slightly larger price for the properties, while explaining to the customer that the extra cost now will be more than off-set by the energy savings made by the super-efficient measures built within the home.

I also think the Government needs to get properly behind this energy standard. I'm sure if more and more houses were built to the Passivhaus standard, their carbon emissions targets will be more achievable and reduce the overall carbon footprint of the country.

Energy bills are some of the biggest costs people have to endure on a quarterly or monthly basis. Any measure which aims to reduce significantly the amount of heat used and proven to do so should be seriously looked at.

This is my first foray into the world of Passivhaus, so apologies if there are any details wrong or if I have missed something vitally important out. Please pull me up on it and leave a comment.

Much more info on Passivhaus can be found at:

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Monday, January 9, 2012

A Fitter Salesman Is A Better Salesman

If you've been following me on Twitter, many of you will know I have been going to the gym on a regular basis for about the last 3 months or so. I started to go as I was starting to get a bit flabby round the front and sides (I couldn't fit in to one of my best suits!), I was feeling lethargic, sluggish and generally unfit.

So I took the plunge and joined the gym late October/early November (can't remember which!), and I am already starting to see and feel the difference. Appearance is certainly starting to change (much to the delight of my girlfriend haha!). I'm losing the stomach and love handles at the sides. Arms are becoming more toned, as is the beer belly. In fact all upper body has improved quite well.

But what I have also noticed is that I'm feeling far fitter now than I have done in quite a long time. The lethargy has gone. I look less tired even though I'm actually sleeping less at the moment! I'm more focused in the office. I'm zipping about the office at the same speed now as when I first started. I'm getting far more done in all areas of my work, and in my opinion to a better standard. So this leads me to wonder, does a fitter salesmen make a better salesmen? So far I would answer yes! Also, I've cut out the booze! I'm bored of hangovers and quite enjoy waking up on a Saturday or Sunday morning not feeling like crap!

Should all salesmen take it upon themselves to lead a healthier lifestyle to improve their sales performance? I don't think companies should make it compulsory for their staff to alter their regimen to suit a better way of living, but maybe helpful advice could provide that little nudge? Just speaking out loud here, could be talking crap again!

I maintain however that since going to the gym and improving my diet I feel far better for it, and it has definitely had a positive impact on my work. So, does a fitter salesman make a better salesman? It certainly does!

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2011: How The High Street Was Hit

2011 was a very tough year for the high-street. It never seemed to be out of the news. Either someone was in administration, or someone was about to go into administration.

I found a website which lists the retailers that have gone over the course of 2011. Warning, the list below is a bit of a long one, but I'm writing it to make a point of how badly the high-street is struggling right now (I've highlighted the bigger and more obvious companies):

Hawkins Bazaar
D2 Jeans
Cooks Bakery
Broadmarsh Centre
Best Buy
TJ Hughes
Jane Norman
McCormick's Music Shop - iconic music store in Glasgow
Life And Style
Focus DIY
HiHo Jewelers
BeCheeky - online retailer
Alworths - successor to Woolworths
Easy Living Furniture - retails trading name of Sofas UK
The Officers Club
Shakeaway Milk Bars
Arrogant Cat
Triumph Furniture Company
Ollie & Nic
Auto Windscreens
JJB Sports
HPJ Jewelers
British Bookshops and Stationers 
Balls Brothers
Suits You
Mad O'Roukes Pie Factory
Vergo Retailing
Laser Electrical
Faith Shoes
Not Only Shops!
Specialty Retail Group
Ethel Austin
Diamonds and Pearls
Virgin Cosmetics

Total store closures: 2469
Total job losses: 24,025

Stats from: 

Sorry you had to read all, that, I was just making a point! We've already had La Senza, Blacks Leisure and Past Times fail this year.

The high street is still very important to the economy of this country. It still employes tens of thousands of people up and down the UK. These are very valuable jobs in a time where having a job is increasingly considered a privilege. 

Maybe the high street is a bit dated. I think it still plays an important role in business. But maybe their presence should be in a different capacity. Improvements and changes obviously need to be made. Investment in the streets themselves to make them look more desirable would be a good start for the Government to make. Shops need updating, rents need to fall to ease the pressure on retail companies. Perhaps stores need to be integrated with their online portals more. Click and collect services for more stores will drive internet users through the doors to pick up their goods.

I'm not claiming to be an expert. Not like Mary, queen of shops! This was a clever little move by the Government. If anyone knows how to improve a high-street store then it's this clever lady. I'll be interested to see some of the ideas she's got and how she's going to put them into practice.

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How Long Left For HMV?

HMV announced figures today that in the 5 weeks leading up to Christmas in 2011, sales were down 8.2% in comparison to the same 5 weeks in the year before.

You know things are bad when the company itself is saying that it may not be around in the coming few months! However according to reports, the suppliers to the high street chain are still backing the company, which is probably the most important string to the HMV bow right now. If they lose the support of their suppliers however, they might as well shut up shop now.

The big question here is what has caused HMV to be hit so hard? It lost out mainly due to being on the back foot when it came to the digital music revolution. iTunes from Apple really hit the company, as well as others, very hard indeed. In fact iTunes sales account for over £2billion per year in online music sales in the UK. Other companies like Amazon have adapted a little bit better. They've created their own music download section, though it's nowhere near as advanced as iTunes, at least they're making an effort. HMV on the other hand have been very slow off the mark. They have tried to update their online music operations. Their site looks well laid out, better than the Amazon download site. They have a list of 8 million songs to choose from, and the prices are very similar to iTunes. But because they were so many years behind Apple, most people's default choice of online music store is now iTunes. They won't be able to catch up.

Speaking from a personal point of view, their prices in-store are far too expensive. Why would I pay £15 for an album when I could pay half that online? Spending another £7/£8 just to own the case isn't enough justification. 

HMV have spent a little bit of money trying to update their stores. The thing is, I never found their stores dowdy or offensive in the first place. I always found it a nice environment to be in. So money wasted there if you ask me.

They've also made their way into technology. They sell things such as iPods, iPads, speakers and other musical hardware. The problem here again is price. Online these items are cheaper. And if someone is going to buy something like an iPad, or speakers, they're more likely to go to those suppliers direct and pay a cheaper price.

I think the overall problem here is that HMV have an old business model that has just been caught out by the advances in internet shopping habits and the recession. I can see the chain going into administration sooner rather than later. Hopefully it will find a buyer. I've always been a fan of HMV. In fact I have a points card with them, which I probably need to spend before they go! Someone, possibly one of the guys from Dragons Den, needs to take over the store and inject some new passion and ideas. Maybe reduce the high-street presence, as there probably isn't a future with that, and focus more on creating a bigger and better online business.

The employ thousands of people in hundreds of stores. It will be a sad day if they were to go from our high streets altogether.

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Sunday, January 8, 2012

How Long Until The Next Price Increase?

I don't want to jinx anything, but have you noticed that the price increase letter sent from our manufacturers and suppliers seems to have dried up?

There was a period last year where it seemed that nearly every week most of us were receiving letters explaining rather large increases from immediate effect or within 7 days. Glass price increases were the largest, with Pilkington raising some of their product ranges by about 40%.

However, for the last few months of 2011, and the beginning of 2012, I haven't heard of any upcoming price increases, from any area of the market - much to my surprise.

The cost of raw materials has continued it's steady rise, oil prices are back on the up, fuel costs are still painfully high and general running costs for businesses continue to rise. I fully expected more price increase letters before this point.

This pause in price increases is of course very welcome. Profit margins for every company are being stretched badly right now, any further increases will only add further strain. However I do feel that at some point this year, most likely to be late spring/early summer, there could be a raft of increases again. Companies right now will be looking at their accounts, their margins, forecasting further raw material price increases, and seeing whether or not they need to raise their prices. By the time these processes have been done, we're likely to be in April or May time. Of course I may be wrong!

If I am wrong, this will be good news. No one wants any more price increases, and the longer they take to arrive, the better for customers and just as important, profit margins.

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Saturday, January 7, 2012

Knowing Your Marketing

Yesterday I was given a PDF copy of a new marketing e-book, Marketing & Lead Generation, from Dave Blakeman from RPS RoofWright. Having given it a quick read through I've found that it could be of good use to a great many of you out there.

During these recession years, the industry has evolved to be an extremely competitive one, I think too competitive. But, as the introduction to the e-book explains, it's vitally important to get your marketing right, whether it's your direct marketing or even as simple as how to negotiate with customers. Each little move can be so decisive.

The e-book covers all sorts of areas, from valuing the customer, guarantees, quotations and negotiating discounts, to lead generation, internet marketing, AdWords and everything else to do with marketing online.

Some parts of the e-book will cover familiar ground, something which I found as I was reading it, some of it however provides a lot of useful tips and reminders. As companies and sales people generally, we all get a bit lax from time to time, so the whole book, new stuff and same stuff, should provide a good little refresher session to us all.

The one part of the book which struck a particular chord with me was the negotiating discount bit. Don't go thinking it's going to go revealing some special tricks because it's not. Happily it explains that most of the time you should be saying no to customers when they ask for money off, and then hitting back by asking them why. This is a breath of fresh air for me. Many of you will know how much of a gripe I have with sales and discounts and how phony they are. This e-book guide guides you down the path of honest, profitable selling without having to rely on discounts. The correct way of doing business.

Dave is taking part in the Cycle India charity ride in a couple of weeks for the charity Heal. If you would like to donate, then click here.

Until January 20th, Dave will send anyone a copy of the e-book if they make a £20 donation at: Once you have confirmation of the donations, email that to and he will forward you a copy of the book.

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Friday, January 6, 2012

Charity Run Re-Think

In my efforts to get fitter and turn the beer belly into a magnificent six pack for all to admire and be jealous of, I have found that I am extremely flat footed. 

Now in an earlier post I had postulated that I would like to run from here in West Yorkshire to Aberystwyth in Wales. I picked Aberystwyth because I figured my girlfriend at Uni there would be able to look after me and my tired body, and was a novel way to be able to get to see her. I wasn't going to run back, I would have taken the train!

However, as you have probably now worked out, my flat footed-ness has made me re-think that plan. I currently only do short very fast sprints, as opposed to my older routine of 15 minutes of steady running. My flat feet are giving me pretty bad shin splints which hurt quite bad when I'm running. So running the 180 miles to the west coast of Wales is a non starter.

Despite this set back, I still wish to do something. And something on the same scale. I was told that doing it on a bike was a far easier option, and I'm now considering that. I'm going start doing some fixed bike training at the gym to try and get used to longer rides, build up my stamina. Once I've done a bit of training, I'll assess what my strengths are and see if the bike ride option is a more realistic endeavor.

I would like to hear from anyone that has done any longish bike rides before, just to gauge their experience and get some much needed tips!

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Thursday, January 5, 2012

More Doors

Let me ask you a question: did you find that you sold more doors than normal?

I sold A LOT of doors during the second half of 2011. Maybe people were prioritizing doors above windows as they see doors as more of a security risk. Maybe there were more knackered old doors that needed replacing than windows - especially the old timber ones with leaks and draughts all over the place, with bad weather exposing the bad areas.

People are certainly putting their efforts into the doors in their home. And why not! They use them every day. They need to be secure, high performing, good in looks and brilliant at keeping the heat out.

We've started this year in brisk fashion, and guess what we've been selling plenty of? Yep, doors. The pattern from last year seems to have carried on to the start of this year.

I'm really asking you all a question with this post really. Are you finding that over the past 6-9 months there has been a relatively obvious shift towards installing new doors as opposed to full house replacement windows.

Clearly plenty of windows are still being sold, I just think doors have taken over in the priority race right now. Do you agree?

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Some Of The Worst Tripe I've Ever Read!

There has been some bad press and there has been some stupid things written about this industry, but what I read today was nothing short than utter and complete nonsense! Here's a couple of extracts:

"Can putting cling film on your windows act as cheap double glazing and stop them losing heat?"

"A home energy expert, from not-for-profit energy group Ebico, replies: When it comes to retaining heat and keeping homes warm, single glazed windows perform badly on two counts. 

Firstly, as thermal barriers they are inefficient. The single thickness of the glass does little to stop heat escaping, resulting in the property getting cold. 

Secondly, older windows may be ill-fitting, letting in drafts. Draughts of colder air in a room can have a chilling effect on occupants, as the moving air has an effect much like 'wind chill'. Ultimately, as the temperature of your property drops, the more energy you will use to keep your home warm.

Putting cling film on single glazed windows does in fact help to reduce energy loss.
By providing a second barrier to heat transfer, it creates a very basic – and inexpensive – ‘double glazing’ system. The film also has the potential to stop drafts coming into the home through poorly-fitting windows, making the room feel warmer."

The hilarity continues:

"Rather than using cling film, you may like to consider using stretching transparent polythene film across your windows, secured with double-sided sticky-tape. These kits can be purchased from most good DIY shops at relatively little expense. 

Not only is this a reasonably cheap solution, but it can significantly reduce draughts coming into your home and increase the room temperature. Additionally, this measure is beneficial, particularly for short-term tenants, as it does not require changes to the fabric of the building which would otherwise need the landlord’s permission.  

However, the main drawback of this solution is that windows cannot be opened and closed whilst the film is in place. Consequently the film will need to be removed each spring and replaced each autumn. 

A longer term solution would be a secondary double glazing system.  Again, these can be obtained from DIY suppliers. Although secondary double glazing solutions are more expensive, they do offer improved access to windows and they can generally be fitted by a competent DIY enthusiast. They can also be left in place year-round."

I mean seriously! Are they actually saying putting a thin piece of film with double-sided tape over single glazing is just as good as modern day A rated energy efficient windows?! You won't even be able to open the bloody window!

Who actually comes up with these ideas?! If you have decrepit old timber windows, aluminium or PVCu for that matter, why would sticking film over the top solve all your problems?!

The best solution? Get your hand in your pocket and rip the old bloody things out and put new ones in!

If you want to see this article in it's ridiculous entirety, click here.

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Wednesday, January 4, 2012

First Day Back

It was the first official day back in the office today, and it was a surprisingly brisk start to the new business year!

We had been open at various points during Christmas and New Year, and took some decent quality leads and some sales too. Not bad to say we're approaching another recession and it was during our quietest time of the year.

Lead levels today for the first day back were pretty good, we all signed up deals and there's plenty more decent sized orders in the pipeline to come good.

But, I think this little boost to the start of the year may be a symptom of a reserved December. People were quite unwilling to spend during most of the month, most likely holding off until Christmas had passed to start their home improvements.

The positive start to the year is of course welcomed, however it probably won't be a sustained improvement on 2011. I think that just like last year, business in 2012 will come in fits and starts. The key will be to sell this years contracts with a decent profit margin. People are getting used to things becoming more expensive. Companies should start to use this change in attitude to re-build their profit margins over the course of the year.

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Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The Pitfalls Of Running A Forum

While the industry gets to grips with social media; Twitter and the bloggersphere, there's one thing that has struggled to take off.

Forum's have always seemed to struggle to punch a hole in the online world of windows. I don't quite know why that is. Maybe there are a few reasons to blame?

Twitter maybe? With Twitter providing real-time responses to questions or debates, the idea of waiting for someone to comment back on a forum thread or question may seem slightly out of date and require too much time in front of a screen than anyone can be bothered with.

Effort? It takes a lot of effort from a lot of people to keep a forum fresh and interesting. People have to post different topics constantly, and ones that are interesting enough to force responses from people. The minute you start to repeat the same topics and threads, people are going to turn off and go somewhere else...or not bother at all!

People? Forums have to have a diverse range of people. GlassTalk was guilty of having the same 8-10 people posting threads and leaving comments to each other, and not really welcoming enough to new people. If small cliques start to form then people are going to feel like engaging in fear of not being talked to.

Despite what many people think, I think there is a place for an online forum in this industry. I believe there is enough to talk about to keep it interesting and maybe even force a change for good within our sector. 

What do you guys think? If there was a forum with constantly changing and engaging subjects and the site was interactive and modern enough, would you contribute to it?

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Monday, January 2, 2012

Are Double Glazing Adverts Getting Better?

Is it me, or do window TV ads seem to be getting better? I used to be of the opinion that a classy double glazing advert on the TV was an impossibility. Take this infamous example:

With tacky, and unfortunately memorable ads like this one plaguing our TV screens, was the classy window ad completely out of reach?

Maybe not, over the last couple of years Everest and Anglian Home Improvements have cleverly used the push on energy efficiency to improve the image of double glazing, doors and conservatories on the telly. Anglian has just launched a new one with Laurence Llwellan Bowen (hope I've spelled that right!), which I think is quite classy. It's got a recognizable but respected voice, the imagery is slick and professional (unlike some of our industry fitters!). Unfortunately YouTube won't let me embed the video of the new ad here, but if you click this, then it'll take you straight to Anglian's YouTube channel where you can see it there.

Everest have brought out some rather slick ads out in the last couple of years, using Craig Doyle, an experienced and suave Irish TV presenter to front them. Again, their use of the push on energy efficiency and A rated windows has helped drag PVCu windows out from the tacky room and into the 'important for your carbon footprint' room. Here's a short example:

I also like the way 'sales' and 'discounts' aren't being pushed in this ad - it's clever in a subtle way. Everyone knows that a sale and discount comes with a cheap and tacky background. Everest are trying to create a luxurious and quality feel in the ad, banging a big old SALE sign in the top right hand corner is going to totally ruin that.

Maybe if all those other companies thinking of going on TV were to take a little hint from these guys, public perception of our industry might change for the better.

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